Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thoughts On Becoming A 'Poker Pro'

No no, not me! Already ruled that one out and focus my energies in this post-corporate chapter of my life on creating a 'passive income' (but that, as they say, is another story).

After reading countless forum posts, some excellent blogs and having a few chats with friends both online and off - I have come to the conclusion that the desire held by so many small stakes poker players to 'One day become an online pro' is in fact a delusion...

Yes, a strong word - but one chosen with a good reason.

There are many reasons for this, some practical, others mathematical and still more psychological. Will list a few below:

- Let us start with the statistics: The majority will never make it, a downswing will come and that will be that, mix in the 'real' aspiration behind this decision... people are not looking to become a high-volume low-limit grinder. In their hearts the real desire is to become the next Annette_15 or BigJoe or Rizen... folks, these are the 1% of 5% of 0.1% - that is to say 1% of players actually take the action required to become a 'pro', 5% of these make a reasonable profit after a year, a tiny percentage then go on to make it 'big'... my view on the stats is this, any one wannabe pro has a 95% chance of failure within year 1 (this might be giving up, no necessarily losing money) of these one in 1000 will get to the neo-celebrity status with the success level they really crave. So from the outset - of those who make the decision to 'go for it' 1 in 20,000 get there.

- Next a bit of psychology (my first degree was in that subject BTW!). The desire to be a poker pro is influenced by the 'love of the game'. There is a lot to love about poker, the challenge, the competitiveness and the satisfaction of taking home the cash! Yet again and again I hear the same thing, after just a few months of being a 'pro' the love starts to ebb, the game becomes a 'grind' in the negative meaning of the word for so many. If you are stuck 'grinding' SNGs (for example) at the low to mid-limits is this really any better than a data-entry job?? (well it pays better I guess!!) Most aspiring pros will give up because they lose the love in my experience.

- 'Kudos' needs to be brought into the discussion too. The online 'names' have a certain 'cool' about them, hordes of wannabes hanging on their every message-board post, pouring over their hand histories and generally wishing to be 'just like them'. Becoming a pro, even a mildly successful one will often gain the 'respect' of virtual peers and offline poker-playing friends... my point here is that this is a delusion too. Your poker playing buddies will leave college and get jobs, your 'virtual' following is nothing more than a rather odd way of making yourself feel 'superior' or 'good' and actually (again unless you are the 0.1% who transition to the 'big time') you end up with a life that is far from 'looked up to' and are really convincing yourself that all is well by using the eyes of those very 'aspiring pros' who will never make it...

- Time: Ok, there are a certain percentge will can and do make a good wage multi-tabling the cash games or playing tournaments. Some will make $100k+ doing this, the majority will not. This is a good amount of cash when you are young, living on campus or with parents (or even on a Thai island), spending your spare cash on a nice lifestyle going out with buddies and the rest. Two points here, you are getting older, some day your buddies will have 'settled down' some day you'll have a spouse and a familiy to look after, some day going out drinking until the early hours will not have the same appeal any more... grinding the poker tables will not then be balanced with other aspects of life. Point 2: You really want to do the same thing for 3, 5 or 10 years (!) sounds like hell to me!!

Could go on, there are a few more thoughts in my head on this subject - will stop though before this post becomes a mile long. Feel free to share your thoughts via some comments, always happy to disagree with people (healthy debate a favourite off-line passtime for me!).

Will summarize, I think the aspiration for most people to become a poker-pro is a delusion for the following reasons: Chances of making it are (very) slim - however good you believe you are. The love of the game will disappear, turning poker from something good into a nasty, repetative grind. The kudos among peers is transitory. And finally, unless you are the 1/20,000 who make it big being a poker pro is a poor option over the medium to long term.

GL becoming a pro! Mark

PS: Xmas booze challenge update: took a hit running AK into QQ on a AQA flop (oops!) but have since ground my forgotten mini bankroll from its starting point of $2.10 up to just over $9 (thats enough for a cheap bottle of wine!)


MrTynKyn said...

Well Mark , I will try not to be too long.
Being a Pro ,I think, is not to be like the better players of the world.
Being a pro means to me : Get my income from the poker , enough to pay my bills , grow up a family , take a vacation , make some saving and try ,with a correct bankroll managment, to play higher levels in order to get more money , to have a better life , more saving for my late years, etc.
I think the first trouble is the place that people live .
The whole south america , Afrika , Asia and some island have a average income of 600 USD at month . With that money you can have a life , grow up a family , pay your retired plan , and have some vacation.
So , making 1500 USD provide you a good live.
You can avoid getting bored at the tables improving your game , learning and trying , if you get , lets say , 5000 USD at month , CAN YOU REALIZE WHAT KIND OF LIVE YOU WILL HAVE IN THOSE COUNTRIES.
I think this comment is usefull whitout some pictures . This is the things you can do with a 2000 USD average at month ( pay attention to the dates , every trip has 1000 KM of distance minimum)

I think is a good topic that need to discuss in several parts. It is very interesting .

Always a good feeling to read your blog

Mark said...

Hey MrTynKyn, Thanks for your input - I was hoping to get some alternative views.

You make a very good point about the relative costs of living. I am indeed aware of this having travelled very widely through SE asia / Central America and many other places too (in fact paid for my diving course in Honduras by playing poker!!).

Would be interested in whether you still enjoy the game as much as you did before you became a pro??

Cheers, Mark

Mark said...

Nice photo's BTW!

Would have seen more of South America last year... only our passports were stolen in Peru!!

Cheers, Mark

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I am probably a bit different to many players who are pros, or want to be. I have a full time job but I have set myself a goal to supplement this income with a small amount of poker money, playing approx 1 hour a night and aiming to make around $100 a week, which would be enough to be useful for me. Do you think this is a realistic goal or am I in the same 95% as everyone else? ;-)

Mark said...

Sounds like a good goal to me... enjoy the game a make a bit of extra cash on the side!

My thinking is that going on a nice run, giving up your job and then playing for a living is where the problems start.

Mind you - after being a wage slave for 10 years (and a 'successful' one on objective measures) I have a thought or two about J.O.Bs too!!

Cheers and GL, Mark

MrTynKyn said...

HI Mark :

"Would be interested in whether you still enjoy the game as much as you did before you became a pro??"

I think to left a bit the math and enter in the dark part of poker would be interesting .
Aims , psichological thoughts , better done that than the other , etc .
I mean , talk about how is our point of view about make money , more and more money , mix with fun but without lose the main objetive .How we becoming a pushbot players , playing 20 tables at once in order to get X winrate , etc

I dont know if Im clear cause a have a very little amount of words in my english vocabulary .

Hoping to see as always a good entry in your blog .